Staying positive in a difficult situation is tough. You know what's going on, you might not have control over any of it, and now you need to fight your emotions and stay up-beat. I've been there and it's tough. Fighting through your own emotions to mask what's really happening is just as hard as dealing with what's going on behind the scenes. But I can tell you this, perfecting the positive attitude can be your saving grace.
I recently attended a networking and marketing event. Though I normally dress more professional for these I went in my casual clothes, as 8a.m. was never my favorite time of day to dress up. When I arrived, I was the only one dressed in a t-shirt and capri pants. Everyone else was business casual or in a suit. I've long gotten over feeling weird about walking into a room and feeling like the beginning of Pretty Woman. I found a friend in the group and said hi. She introduced me to a gentleman named Jim, who was dressed very smartly I might add, and we had a lovely conversation. I was happy to talk about my business and how well things have been going this year. He seemed keen to see my work and possibly run into each other at other networking events. We exchanged cards and took our seats for the event.
After the talk, there was another designer chatting to Jim. While she was dressed much better than me, her attitude as pretty bad. Nay, deplorable. She talked at length how terrible things were for her. How she had just gotten into the freelancing world but was woefully unprepared. No online portfolio, no fall back savings, no clients or contacts, just jumped in because she didn't like the company she was working with before. While I can attest to the work situation, I tried to share some of my years of wisdom playing the freelance game. She was closed off to anything I said. She kept holding back tears, or screams, at how she went into a business venture with two other people and how the bank was screwing them over. Jim was visibly uncomfortable, but was stoic and professional. When he asked for her card she didn't have any. Jim gave her one of his and excused himself. Before he left, he gave me a vigorous hand-shake and said it was lovely to meet me.
After Jim left, I tried to get this other designer to say something nice about herself or her work. Aside from being a print designer, she had no excitement. Her situation was obviously tearing her down. I started to feel uncomfortable so I said good luck to her and left.
All I can say is attitude is everything. It's a skill worth devoting time to as it could mean the difference of a good or bad reputation. Cincinnati is a little-big city and the creative field is very much a close community. I've gone to various networking events, hosted by different organizations, and met a lot of the same people. As a freelancer, you must be aware of how you behave. It sounds nerve-wracking (and it is) but it is far more beneficial to stay positive than to be a downer. Leave your personal issues at home and step outside with your professional face on. That doesn't mean you have to be in work/selling mode. Behave as you would in a professional office you're visiting for the first time. People don't want to hear about your sob story. They might sympathize, but they didn't come to an event to feel sad. They won't be interested in it and will be turned off from talking to you at length. You'll also be forever pegged as the one with the sad story or bad attitude.
What do you do then? Ask people more questions. Everyone loves to talk about themselves (admit it, you know you do). You give them the opportunity to lead the conversation and that will reflect well on you. You'll be seen as inquisitive and a good listener. People will take notice and thank you. And if you're still not feeling up for it, fake it.
Fake it till you make it. Cliché yes, but it works. Hence why it's a cliché.
It's difficult sometimes to push myself through a networking event. Somedays I'm not up for it, or I'm stressed, or I'm just feeling anti-social. It's rare that I skip an event if there's any chance I'll make one connection. So when I do go, I don my positive mask and try to keep a good attitude. Trust me, it's worth the effort!
Happy New Year to all! There's nothing like the coming of January first to instill some much needed motivation to make changes to one's habits. The new year is often a time of reflection on the past year and setting the bar higher for the next one. While personal resolutions are common, going to the gym more, eating healthy, spending more time with family, etc., freelance resolutions are just as important. Running your own business requires a lot of personal investment of time, money, and energy. The new year is a great opportunity to reflect on how your business did last year and what you want to see change or improve for next year. My work resolutions are the same as my personal ones: do more. It may only be one resolution but it covers a wide girth of avenues I want to cover.
There's nothing like putting yourself into a networking event and pitching what you do to strangers. It's exciting and nerve wracking all at the same time. I did a respectable amount of networking in 2015, as my business was just starting to pick up momentum. Putting myself in public situations where I had to introduce who I was and what I did always made me nervous. I'm not great at chatting with strangers, but I got better at it the more I did it. This year, I hope to attend at least one or two networking events per month. Finding events that would serve me best ties in with my next resolution.
The internet removes many obstacles that I might have faced half a lifetime ago. From Google's homepage, I can type in anything I want and find relevant information about the local, regional, and national markets. I can see who my competition is and what businesses I should pitch my services to. In 2015, I made a slew of bookmarks to pages I got as results but didn't dig much deeper into them. The bookmark was more like "Oh, this might be useful but I really want to watch some cat videos today" type of treatment. This year, I'm going through all of those bookmarks and checking to see if they are worth keeping and following up on. Which also flows into another resolution.
I'm terrible at keeping things in proper order. I have a stack of papers that are in an area I've nicknamed the "file whenever" pile. My goal is to actually file my paperwork once a week rather than once every few months. I know exactly what's in the stack, and that's been a lame excuse to put them away in an actual file folder. In the spring, I go through 75% of everything I own that is small enough to carry with one hand and determine its final fate or location. I love my desk trinkets, but they are overwhelmed with too many office supplies. Putting everything in a new home and de-cluttering my work space is a constant battle I fight. This year I'm going to put more effort into cleaning and maintaining things.
This year will be all about more. More productivity, more connections, more work, more income, more success.
Here's to 2016 and all the mores to come!
It's finally June! That means school is out and the weather turns hot and humid within a matter of minutes. Kids can take a break from classes and turn off their brains for a few short weeks. How I miss those days when summer break was all I ever wanted after the last holiday break. Sadly those days are gone and I now find myself in the classroom more than ever before.
Freelancing means much more than working your own hours, in any location you'd like, and wearing your bath robe till noon while you work. It also means constantly learning. Non-stop learning. As much as you can get, any chance you get, you must always find new things to learn. With a more flexible schedule, I finally have a chance to attend all those meet-ups, learning lunches, seminars, visiting experts, and other events that will enrich my career.
Just this morning my local AIGA chapter posted an event for beginning freelancing. Of course I'm going to go! Even though I've been doing this for a while now I have still so many things I could learn from people who have been at it longer. Freelancing has made me more humble. The creative community is pretty tight and a bad reputation can get around quickly. It's better to be humble among your peers than a pompous ass that no one wants to work with or help out. I know I don't know everything and I could always use more advice. It's not so much a step backwards but a chance to see another perspective. An opportunity to see how others have approached the same thing I have and what their successes and failures were.
So even after twelve years of grade school and a total of seven years of college, I'm running back into a classroom mentality. Willingly. In high school I never wanted to go back to any type of school environment. Then college happened... twice. I was in my late 20's when I was done will all the schooling I could afford and realized I knew nothing. Experience is a great teacher too but it isn't always enough. Networking events and seminars given by others in the field are now my new classrooms. And I'm glad to get back to it.